Saving crocodiles in Burundi

This is a video about Nile crocodiles.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

One man’s bid to save Burundi’s crocodiles from the cooking pot

In Burundi’s capital, Albert Ngendera has turned his home into a refuge to save the country’s declining crocodiles from being snapped up for dinner. But with 45 babies due in January, the crocs will soon outgrow their home

Hannah McNeish in Bujumbura

Wednesday 31 December 2014 16.07 GMT

People in Burundi are keen to tell you that it’s famous for having the largest fresh water crocodiles on Earth, reticent to admit they’ve eaten a few and sad to say that they have disappeared from the shores of Lake Tanganyika and are clearing out of the Ruzizi river due to over-poaching.

In one of the world’s poorest countries and Africa’s hungriest, crocodiles were munched and pillaged during a 12-year civil war that ended in 2005 but did not end poverty.

It was during this time that Albert Ngendera, who like many Burundians ate crocodile, decided to snap up 12 baby crocodiles and save them from the pot by putting them on his porch at his home in the capital Bujumbura.

“I had dogs before – about 10 – but dogs have no benefit. They’re there for security but nothing else. These animals, they’re nice to look at,” he says, crouching next to the small pen where his scaly pets lounge around all day and enjoy the odd dip in small ponds.

Four crocodiles died from poisoned food that neighbours threw over the fence, perhaps remembering the beast that put Burundi on the map for wildlife as well as war 10 years ago: Gustave. This 20ft-long, 2,000 pound heavy croc allegedly gorged himself on hundreds of villagers.

National Geographic spent years searching for “the largest, most fabled crocodile in all of Africa – a demonic Loch Ness monster of incredible proportions and, according to legend, appetite,” but Gustave vanished.

Despite the setback, Albert’s croc stock is about to go through the roof, with up to 45 babies expected in January. So far, he has nowhere to put them, but he hopes that the land the government promised him will one day come through so that he can finally develop his wildlife park, complete with a restaurant where crocburgers are off the menu.

“People can just eat bread and fish, like Jesus,” he says, likening his home to Noah’s Ark as he shows off his collection of cobras, chimpanzees, tortoises and monkeys that he rescues by buying from hunters.

He’s never watched the Crocodile Dundee films, or seen the late broadcaster and wildlife expert Steve Irwin, but thinks “it’s not good to play with animals like crocodiles”, and learns from the South African conservationists he sees on TV.

Burundi’s president has called Albert in to discuss his dilemma, but getting land for animals in one of the most densely-populated countries on Earth is difficult.

At Bujumbura’s Musee Vivant (‘living museum’), star-crossed crocodiles Romeo and Juliet can only gaze at one another from tiny pens to avoid the pitter patter of tiny feet, while giant Lacoste – the shirtfront emblem of any self-respecting Frenchman – may as well be embroidered for all the pool space he has to wallow in.

The zoo relies on selling £3 guinea pigs and £7 rabbits for tourists to feed to the crocodiles to keep the place afloat.

The government lacks the funds to lock up the crocodiles, says Feruzi Mohamed, director general of Burundi’s environment ministry. “But even if we did, we wouldn’t enclose this species away from their natural habitat.”

Mohamed is relying on a law that threatens crocodile hunters with a six-month jail term and fine. But if Burundi really wants to save its crocs, it had better make it snappy or they will be immortalised only in legends.

African conservationists learning from each other

This 2013 video is called Kenya At 50: Kenya‘s challenges in wildlife conservation.

From BirdLife:

Local conservation groups learn from each other

By Obaka Torto, Wed, 17/12/2014 – 09:31

Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda that are involved in the implementation of the Lake Victoria Basin project had the opportunity to meet in Uganda on 10-13th November 2014. The main purpose of the visit was to learn from each other through sharing experiences and best practices in institutional management, networking, conservation issues and eco-businesses.

Two days were dedicated to field visits to the Site Support Groups (SSGs) of Lutembe Wetland Users Association and Mabamba Wetland Ecotourism Association, to learn about the conservation and income generating activities organised by the community and to discuss the challenges faced and ways of addressing them. Sites and projects visited included:

Malaki Eco lodge, a private venture within Lutembe wetland which aims to operate in harmony with the surrounding landscape and vegetation;

Entebbe Snake Park, a partner with Lutembe Wetland Users Association, that promotes the conservation of snakes and other reptiles;

Confidence Eco Model Yard (CEMY) , an Eco-tourism company site that demonstrates how to live within a wetland while contributing to its conservation and improving the tourism status of Lutembe Bay;

A solid waste management programme, spearheaded by CEMY, which engages in activities including separation of different forms of solid waste such as used clothes, glass, polythene and biodegradables. The community uses the biodegradable materials to make briquettes which are cheaper to use and more environmentally friendly than charcoal;

Mabamba Wetland Ecotourism Association’s liquid and bar soap project;

Crisps and bagiya making by members of Mabamba Wetland Ecotourism Association, which are sold to generate profits for the group; and

A tree nursery, which is part of Mabamba Wetland Ecotourism Association’s objective of conserving and restoring Mabamba wetland for sustainability.

This visit was much appreciated by all participants, whose comments included:

“I learned from the visits that for a group to prosper there has to be mutual understanding amongst members. Despite the level of education, we must embrace each other” (Peris Odour, member of Yala Wetland Environmental Volunteers, Kenya).

“From the two SSGs visited, we learned that continued communication and reinforcing available networks with other partners working towards nature conservation is important. Therefore, we’ll try to replicate this in Ruyigi province and, if it is possible, with other provinces” (Nshimirimana Consolate member of Serukubeze, Burundi).

“As our overall goal is to use sustainably our wetland in a way that conserves biodiversity and ecosystem services, we learned much from our colleagues in Uganda and we took a decision to share our views with a large number of people, starting with those we work with in our SSGs, to ensure that every one becomes a motor of positive change in environmental conservationandprotection”
(Uwimana Rosine, member of Cooperative Sugira Musenyi, KOSUMU, Rwanda).

This visit was organised and facilitated by BirdLife International in collaboration with national Partners of Burundi (Association  Burundaise  pour  la  protection  de  la  Nature), Kenya (Nature Kenya), Rwanda (Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda) and Uganda (Nature Uganda), as part of a Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation funded project entitled “Conservation of the birds and biodiversity of the Lake Victoria Basin (the Greatest of Africa’s Great Lakes) through community-led action and sustainable development

Story by Mercy Kariuki

Women in Conservation: Let women benefit from ecotourism revenues – biodiversity will benefit, too: here.

‘Extinct’ Burundi frog rediscovered

This 11 January 2013 video from the USA is called David Blackburn, Frog Communication | California Academy of Sciences.

From Wildlife Extra:

Extinct frog rediscovered in Burundi

Elusive long-fingered frog found after 62 years of ‘extinction’

March 2012. Herpetologists from the California Academy of Sciences and University of Texas at El Paso discovered a single specimen of the Bururi long-fingered frog (Cardioglossa cyaneospila) during a research expedition to Burundi in December 2011. The frog was last seen by scientists in 1949 and was feared to be extinct after decades of turmoil in the tiny East African nation.

For biologists studying the evolution and distribution of life in Africa, Burundi sits at an intriguing geographic crossroads since it borders the vast Congo River Basin, the Great Rift Valley, and the world’s second largest freshwater lake, Lake Tanganyika. Many of the species in its high-elevation forests may be closely related to plants and animals found in Cameroon’s mountains, suggesting that at some point in the past, a cooler climate may have allowed the forests to become contiguous.

Previous knowledge of Burundi’s wildlife came from scientific surveys conducted in the mid-20th century, when the nation was under Belgian administration. But its history since then has been one of political unrest, population growth, and habitat loss. Today, approximately 10 million people occupy an area 1.3 times the size of Wales, giving Burundi one of the highest population densities in Africa.

Bururi habitats intact – Chimps and rare birds

Academy curator David Blackburn joined his colleague Eli Greenbaum, professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, on the 2011 expedition with the goal of finding Cardioglossa cyaneospila, as well as other amphibians and reptiles first described 60 years ago. To their pleasant surprise, the habitats of the Bururi Forest Reserve in the southwest part of the country were still relatively intact, with populations of rare forest birds and chimpanzees present.

Many calls

With little knowledge to go on except a hunch that C. cyaneospila would make a call like its possible close relatives in Cameroon, Blackburn finally found a single specimen on his fifth night in the forest.

“I thought I heard the call and walked toward it, then waited,” said Blackburn. “In a tremendous stroke of luck, I casually moved aside some grass and the frog was just sitting there on a log. I heard multiple calls over the next few nights, indicating a healthy population of the species, but I was only able to find this one specimen.”

The Bururi long-fingered frog is about 1.5 inches long, with a black and bluish-gray coloration. The males are notable for one extra-long finger on each foot, analogous to the “ring finger” in humans, whose purpose is unknown. Its closest relatives live in the mountains of Cameroon, more than 1,400 miles away.

The lone specimen collected, which now resides in the Academy’s herpetology collection, can be used for DNA studies to determine how long the Cardioglossa species from Burundi and Cameroon have been genetically isolated from one another. The results will shed light on Africa’s historical climate conditions, a topic that has far-reaching implications for understanding the evolution of life in the continent that gave rise to our own species.

Possible new discoveries

In addition to locating the Bururi long-fingered frog, Blackburn and Greenbaum also documented dozens of other amphibians in Burundi, many of which had never before been recorded in the country. The team also discovered some species that may be new to science.

“Eventually, we will use the data from our expedition to update the IUCN conservation assessment for amphibians of Burundi,” said Greenbaum. “Because Burundi is poorly explored, we’ve probably doubled the number of amphibian species known from the country. Once we demonstrate that Burundi contains rare and endemic species, we can work with the local community to make a strong case for preserving their remaining natural habitats.”

See also here.

The Association Burundaise pour la protection de la Nature (ABN), the BirdLife partner in Burundi, is working with Serukubeze, the Mpungwe Mountain Chain Site Support Group (SSG), in Ruyigi Province in the East of Burundi near the Ruvubu National Park, towards the development of a Community Development Plan. The Community Plan is being developed through a participatory process in which the SSG works together with the BirdLife partner in identifying local, and relevant national, challenges and opportunities, related to the management of natural resources, and in formulating a strategy for local sustainable development. The Community Plan will hence assist communities in managing their resources more sustainably, and while offering a strong basis and starting point for improved communication between the community and relevant decision-makers at local, national, regional and international level: here.

Kibira National Park, the second largest natural reserve of Burundi, is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and an Afromontane Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) with a rich and diverse forest ecosystem. It covers 36,000 ha at an altitude between 1,600 m and 2,600 m, and is home to thousands of species of fauna and flora, many of which are endemic to the area: here.


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